Tsunami (Disaster Management)

Tsunami (Disaster Management)

This article deals with ‘Tsunami (Disaster Management).’ This is part of our series on ‘Disaster Management’, an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Tsunami (Disaster Management)

Tsunamis are natural phenomena characterized by the occurrence of large waves in the ocean. These immense waves are primarily generated by sudden movements of the ocean floor, which cause a significant displacement of water. 

Causes of Tsunami

  • Underwater Earthquakes: When an earthquake occurs, particularly if it originates under the ocean or near a coastline, it can lead to the generation of a tsunami. The seismic activity causes the ocean floor to shift abruptly, displacing enormous water. This displacement sets off a series of powerful waves propagating across the ocean, potentially reaching distant shores with devastating consequences.
Formation of Tsunami
Formation of Tsunami

  • Submarine or Terrestrial Landslides: When a significant amount of sediment or rock collapses into the ocean, it displaces water and propagates outward waves.
  • Volcanic Eruptions: Underwater volcanic eruptions can cause substantial disturbances to the ocean floor, leading to water displacement and tsunami formation. Similarly, volcanic collapses or explosions on islands or coastal areas can also generate tsunamis as the force of the eruption interacts with the surrounding water.
  • Asteroid, Meteor, or Comet Strikes: In rare cases, tsunamis can be triggered by bolide impacts, such as asteroid, meteor, or comet strikes. These celestial bodies possess immense kinetic energy, and when they collide with the Earth’s surface or enter the ocean, they create a tremendous displacement of water, resulting in waves propagating outward, forming a tsunami. 

India and Tsunamis

The phenomenon of a tsunami, typically caused by earthquakes near seismically active areas in the Pacific Ocean, was historically uncommon in India. However, in December 2004, India was struck by a devastating tsunami on its east and west coasts, resulting in significant consequences.

  • Waves were  3-10 m high and penetrated 300 metres to 3000 metres inland. 
  • Severe damage to life and property => confirmed death toll in India was 12,405 & 5,640 people are still unaccounted for. 
  • Maximum damage was observed in areas which destroyed their mangroves, forests & doing illegal mining.
  • However, Village Naluvedapathy experienced minimum destruction as they planted trees on the coast. 

Ways to deal with Tsunami

Disaster Risk Reduction (Before Tsunami)

  1. Setting up Early Warning Systems: Installing advanced monitoring equipment and establishing a reliable communication network to detect tsunamis and provide timely warnings to coastal communities.
  2. Structural Mitigation Measures: Constructing sea walls and breakwaters along vulnerable coastal areas to provide a physical barrier against incoming tsunami waves
  3. Mock Drills: Organizing regular mock drills and evacuation exercises to practice emergency response procedures and familiarize residents with evacuation routes and shelter locations.
  4. Planting trees along the coast: Due to the protective benefits of coastal vegetation, such as trees, mangroves, forests, sand dunes, and coastal cliffs. 
  5. Avoiding the destruction of Natural Barriers: Implementing policies and regulations to prevent the destruction of mangroves, forests, sand dunes, and coastal cliffs, as they act as natural buffers against tsunamis.
  6. Setting up proper Administrative Machinery: Establishing efficient administrative systems responsible for monitoring, issuing warnings, and coordinating quick and efficient responses.  

Disaster Response (During Tsunami)

  1. Rapid dissemination of Warnings: Ensuring the prompt transmission of tsunami warnings to relevant authorities, including ports, fisheries, shipping industries, and the general public, using various communication channels.
  2. Quick Evacuation System: Conducting evacuations promptly and efficiently to move people away from the coastal areas to safer locations.
  3. Helping survivors immediately after the Tsunami: Mobilizing emergency response teams to provide immediate assistance to survivors, including medical aid, search and rescue operations, and essential supplies like food, water, clothing, and temporary shelter.

Recovery and Rehabilitation (After Tsunami)

  1. Providing Livelihood Support: Offering assistance and support to affected communities in rebuilding their livelihoods by providing financial aid, vocational training, and resources to help restore businesses.
  2. Providing Housing: Assisting in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of housing for those who have lost their homes in the tsunami. It may involve building resilient and tsunami-resistant structures. 

Indian preparedness for Tsunami

The Indian government has shown significant commitment to enhancing its preparedness for tsunamis.

  1. Tsunami Early Warning System: The system has been designed to detect and provide warnings within 10 minutes of a submarine earthquake, providing time for the administration to start the evacuation process.
  2. Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Science (INCOIS): It is headquartered in Hyderabad and plays a pivotal role. It serves as the central hub from where all the monitoring and analysis of potential tsunami threats are carried out. 
  3. High Frequency (HF) Radars: These radars allow for the continuous monitoring of coastal currents, which helps in understanding the behaviour of the ocean currents and identifying any abnormal patterns that could potentially indicate the presence of a tsunami. 
  4. Strengthening Infrastructure: India has constructed coastal embankments, sea walls, and tsunami shelters in vulnerable areas to provide safe havens during emergencies.
  5. Public Awareness and Education: The Indian government has initiated extensive awareness campaigns to educate coastal communities about the risks and preparedness measures associated with tsunamis through various mediums such as television, radio, print media, and social media platforms along with Community drills, workshops, and training programs.

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